When this pandemic passes, generations of academics, and sensible politicians too, will pore over how societies reacted.
They will reflect on how reactions expressed societies’ values, cultures and their ideas of themselves.
China reacted as only an autocracy could and seems to have achieved a remarkable turnaround, one more indulgent societies may come to envy.
For a time Russia pretended that, as it did with homosexuality, coronavirus was unknown to its population. Those fantasies have, in the face of incontrovertible evidence, been set aside. Russia has closed its borders until May 1.
As ever, America does things differently. Reactions run along the bitter divide of their potential-drowning culture war.
Half of the population scoffs at isolation calls and goes to their local Moe’s for a beer. The other half falls into another mire of despair, shouting angrily from apartment windows at those ignoring isolation warnings.
In a revealing expression of their worldview, some Americans risked contamination and queued at gun shops to assert their right to bear even more arms.
Other Americans, the children of the poor whose schools have closed, face a different need as their schools not only educate them but feed them as well.
Britain, all too predictably, retreated to its increasingly bizarre belief in its natural exceptionalism.
That fantasy stood until science, satire and international pressure forced Boris Johnson’s administration to do a U-turn and drop its quack plan to engineer herd immunity — despite the inevitable death toll that policy would exact on older Britons.
Like every society we are struggling to improve limited capacity to match expected but unknowable demand, especially at the pandemic’s pinch point — besieged, overwhelmed hospitals.
Only time can tell how we succeed in that objective but it is fair to say this society has responded in a reassuring, adult way. Any objective comparison between the performance of our ministers and their Westminster peers can only bolster that reassurance.
One group seems, so far, assured and focused, the other bewildered, almost lost.
As more and more analysis emerges it is difficult not to be bewildered.
Retail Excellence warns that another 200,000 people will be out of work this week, in addition to the 140,000 or so who lost jobs since lockdown-lite Thursday.
The World Travel and Tourism Council warns that as many as 50m jobs are at risk in that sector alone, one that generates 10.4% of global GDP, and supports 320m jobs.
These figures are daunting.
Even so, we can only respond one step, no matter how modest, at a time. As soon as it became necessary to isolate there were concerns about ensuring people can stay in contact, about maintaining the links all societies are built on.
To that end, and to protect staff, this newspaper has for the first time in its near 180-year history been produced remotely.
Our offices were empty yesterday but a newspaper has been published. Two weeks ago this step was all but unimaginable but needs — and obligation — must.
This tiny response will not repel coronavirus but it shows in an almost imperceptible way that we can all do the once unimaginable to overcome today’s unimaginable challenge.
- The HSE have developed an information pack on how to protect yourself and others from coronavirus. Read it here
- Anyone with symptoms of coronavirus who has been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 14 days should isolate themselves from other people - this means going into a different, well-ventilated room alone, with a phone; phone their GP, or emergency department - if this is not possible, phone 112 or 999 and in a medical emergency (if you have severe symptoms) phone 112 or 999